Justin T. Gellerson Julia Coney, founder of Black Wine Professionals.
When the conversation around the lack of diversity in the wine industry exploded last summer, it caused an uptick in awareness of Black-owned wineries and winemakers of color. While it was a good place to start, there's still so much work to be done in terms of diversity and inclusion within the wine industry.
If you ask any Black wine professional today what it was like for them to start a career in wine, I'm sure they would share a common experience: They entered a world where not a lot of people looked like them. This caused many of their fellow white industry leaders to take a second look and find ways to create a more inclusive wine world and give back to their community with scholarships, mentorships, events, and other resources. Here are 15 programs that help support BIPOC wine professionals succeed in the industry.
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McBride Sisters SheCan Professional Development Fund
As Black women in the wine industry, Robin and Andréa McBride are no strangers to the hurdles that women—specifically women of color—must jump over to be successful. They have made it their mission to lead by example and support the professional development of Black women in the wine industry and beyond by founding the SheCan Professional Development Fund, a grant program that supports women financially and professionally.
Founded by industry veterans DLynn Proctor, Martin R. Reyes MW, and Mary Margaret McCamic MW, Wine Unify seeks to increase diversity through education. The initiatives center on the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), which offers globally recognized wine qualifications. Wine Unify offers awards at three levels, "Welcome, Elevate, and Amplify," and provides tuition for WSET classes, tasting kits, and networking opportunities.
Be the Change Job Fair
Founded by industry leaders Lia Jones, Rania Zayyat, Cara Bertone, and Philana Bouvier, Be the Change champions diversity and inclusion efforts by implementing change in the wine, beer, and spirits industries. Be the Change is hosting a four-hour virtual job fair event on April 22, 2021, that will feature employers across these industries who are committed to providing diversity, equality, and inclusion to job seekers in the wine industry.
Black Wine Professionals
Black Wine Professionals was established by famed wine writer Julia Coney (pictured above) to be a database of writers, speakers, educators, sommeliers, retailers, importers, distributors, buyers, wine directors, and marketers. The organization also provides educational tools and mentoring and, along with Champagne Laurent-Perrier USA, recently awarded scholarships to five people to take the Wine Scholar Guild's Champagne Master-Level certification courses.
Cal Poly Scholarship Fund for BIPOC
Founders Justin Trabue and Simone Mitchelson, wine industry veterans and graduates of Cal Poly, are bringing attention to the lack of diversity in the school's wine and viticulture program. This initiative led them to create the Cal Poly Scholarship Fund for BIPOC, which provides financial support to students of color, mentorship, and internship opportunities.
Diversity in Brewing Scholarship
The Canadian Diversity in Brewing Scholarship is an annual award for self-identifying BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ students seeking to enroll at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Coordinators set out hoping to persuade at least 25 breweries from Vancouver and beyond to commit to donating at least $200, totaling a minimum $5,000 annual scholarship. Close to 40 have now donated to the fund.
The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color
The Urban Grape is an award-winning wine, craft beer, and spirits store located in Boston's vibrant South End neighborhood owned by husband and wife TJ and Hadley Douglas. Wanting to foster inclusion in the wine business, they created an award that provides a recipient with all the tools necessary to launch their wine career. The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award provides financial support, paid internships, and mentoring for students of color in Boston's wine industry and the Boston University Wine Studies Program.
Michael Jackson Foundation
Founded by Garrett Oliver and named after the famous beer and whiskey writer, this is a scholarship program that awards BIPOC seeking funding to enroll in a brewing or distilling degree program. There are two scholarships in the fund: the Sir Geoff Palmer Scholarship Award for Brewing and the Nathan Green Scholarship, named after Nathan "Nearest" Green, original master distiller for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.
The Roots Fund
The Hue Society founder Tahiirah Habibi teamed up with Heitz Cellar president and CEO Carlton McCoy Jr. and hospitality specialist Ikimi Dubose to launch The Roots Fund, a non-profit that provides 20 scholarships for BIPOC to attend enology and viticulture programs and wine schools. The fund also provides travel expenses for internships and the WSET and Court of Master Sommeliers exams. The Rooted in France scholarship, a partnership with Domaine Dujac and the Burgundy School of Business, offers the graduate of a historically Black college or university the opportunity to live and work in Dijon, France, while earning a master's degree at the School of Wine & Spirits Business.
Causing a Stir
Alexis Brown founded Causing a Stir for the sole purpose of seeing more faces like hers making quality cocktails. Its educational program has more than 3,000 students so far and teaches students both how to mix drinks and the historic erasure of people of color in wine hospitality.
Diversity in Wine & Spirits
Veteran restaurateur Lia Jones founded Diversity in Wine and Spirits to help create more inclusivity in the hospitality industry. It provides scholarships, grants, resources geared toward leadership and professional development, and consulting services for businesses.
Created by Urban Connoisseurs and the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV), The Black Winemakers Scholarship Fund serves to build diversity in the wine industry by bringing awareness to Black winemakers and provide financial assistance to African American students pursuing careers in the wine industry. Partnering with the United Negro College Fund allows students to gain access to funds to support their pursuit of a career in the wine industry.
Major Taylor Fellowship
Washington, D.C., natural wine store Domestique Wine teamed up with Streetsense, a hospitality design collective, to address, challenge, and disrupt the clear lack of diversity in wine. They founded the Major Taylor Fellowship, which awards BIPOC recipients with a $3,000 stipend and housing costs for three weeks while learning the ins and outs of wine retail at Domestique Wine.
Co-created by beverage director Victoria James, Women Empowered provides tuition for wine education to women and minorities, covering all fundamentals of wine education. Each student also receives a one-year membership to GuideSomm.
Great Wine Made Simple Foundation
Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson teamed up with Napa Valley Vintners to launch the Great Wine Made Simple scholarship program that offers 10 full scholarships for her virtual wine course. It is targeted to women and BIPOC candidates, and includes full tuition, tasting kits, and two group mentoring sessions to provide coaching for those who wish to pursue a career in the wine and hospitality industry.
Delicato Family Wines Winemaker Scholarship
The Delicato Family Wines Winemaker Scholarship for BIPOC was created to help improve diversity and inclusion in the wine industry. The scholarship includes full tuition, living expenses, professional development, and industry experience for students who plan to study viticulture and enology at either one of these campuses: University of California, Davis, California Polytechnic State University, and California State University, Fresno.